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Diversity in Economics

Event Start Date:
June 18, 2021
Event End Date:
June 18, 2021
Event Venue:

Date(s) - 18/06/2021
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Diversity in Economics was an online panel discussion with three woman economists from across the globe who discussed the barriers and structural mechanisms minorities face within the field. The panel consisted of Bomi Okuyiga (UK Cabinet Office, board member of The Black Economist Network), Surbhi Kesar (Azim Premji University, Steering Group member of the Diversifying and Decolonising Economics Initiative) and Elisabeth ‘Bitsy’ Perlman (US Census Bureau, founding member of the American Economic Association’s Committee on LGBTQ+ Individuals).

Surbhi, Bomi and Bitsy made distinct points about the structural mechanisms which lead to the neglect of minority voices. Surbhi argued the power hierarchy at play frames our thinking which in turn narrows the scope and acceptance of ideas. On a similar note Bomi, resonated with Surbhi’s point that the current structure reinforces inequalities that exist within the field. From the historical side, Bitsy elaborated on the dominance of the Chicago School in the mid 20th century and how those ideas have been encouraged into our modern mainstream theory.

On another note, the panelists addressed the ways in which they manage incorporating minority voices and the value in doing so. Surbhi mentioned how stronger objectivity comes from recognizing your subjective viewpoints. Likewise, Bomi encouraged everyone to remember economics is a social science and not a hard science so the quality of work is increased with more voices and diverse backgrounds. Bitsy offered a different perspective. She explained the validity of views outside the mainstream, by pointing out some of the best research comes from economists early in their careers when they have not been normalized to the majority voice, and great research can be that which pushes the boundaries of the mainstream.

Lastly, the woman shared their thoughts on what individuals can do to enhance and support diversity in economics. Bitsy encouraged participants to support and pull up those around them. She explained the elitist nature of economics leads to aggressive competition and therefore those in power should be cognisant of those around them who could use support. Moreover, Surbhi encouraged everyone to think about and leverage the comparative advantage of having a different voice or background. Lastly, Bomi explained the importance of expanding one’s horizons by talking with others and attending events or discussions similar to this one.

If you are interested in these topics or want to learn more, you can listen to the full discussion here, as well as follow along to see our future events on similar topics.